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ABRSM Piano Scales & Arpeggios from 2021 Changes and Updates

After having kept to the same syllabus for a prolong time, ABRSM has finally updated the Piano Scales & Arpeggios from 2021 along with the launched of its new Piano Exam Pieces 2021 & 2022. So, what has changed?

Well, many are already aware that an Initial Grade (or pre-Grade 1) syllabus is newly introduced, which should not be confused with the Piano Prep Test. Apart from that, the greatest change in Scales is probably in the Grade 5 syllabus.

We lay down the changes in simple, easy to read bullet points for you:

  • – Broken chords are no longer included for lower grades
  • – Grade 1 descending scale option is removed
  • – Hand separately only for Grades 1 to 5
  • – Hands together for Grades 6 to 8
  • – 3 octaves range removed for Grade 5
  • – Volume of scales decreased for each grade, especially for Grade 5
  • – Staccato introduced for Grade 5, LH and RH separately
  • – 4 key scales are grouped progressively for Grades 6 to 8
  • – Dominant 7th are now resolved to the tonic

The next question that many students tend to ask is what are Examiners looking for in this new syllabus?

According to Leigh O’Hara and Samantha Carrasco, two of the examiners, these are some of the key elements:

  • – Accuracy (in execution)
  • – tempo (which bumps up in ascending grades)
  • – musical shaping / musical approach
  • – “sense of direction” in playing

Well, I hope this summary helps to clarify the key changes to the new Piano Scales & Arpeggios syllabus.

Get a copy of the latest Scales & Arpeggios books here:

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ABRSM Online Music Theory Exams

In view of the longevity of the Covid-19 crisis, ABRSM has announced that they will be delivering Music Theory assessment at Grades 1 to 5 as an online exam. The first online Music Theory Grade 5 (pilot) exam will take place for candidates in the UK on 26 August 2020. Among the selected territories, candidates in Singapore will sit for their Grades 1-5 Music Theory exam on Nov 7, 2020

ABRSM has also updated some questions at Grades 1 to 5 and made some small changes to the syllabus. These changes apply to online exams from 2020 in all territories where they are available.

Download Syllabus summary for Grades 1 to 5 (online exams from 2020):

Download Grade 5 Sample Paper (online exams from 2020):
Download Grade 5 Model Answers (online exams from 2020):

Along with these changes, a new suite of Music Theory publications will be released from 8 October 2020, namely:
Discovering Music Theory – workbooks and corresponding answer books to build understanding of music theory at Grades 1 to 5, step by step. The workbooks provide an all-round preparation for the updated Online Music Theory exams.
Music Theory Sample Papers & Model Answers – contains the layout of the new online exams at Grades 1 to 5, preparing candidates for the updated question types they will experience in the online exam format.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be shedding more light with regards to these new materials, so check back soon.

As for Music Theory exams at Grades 6 to 8, they will continue as paper-based assessments for all candidates worldwide. There are no changes to the questions or syllabus for these grades. ABRSM will offer these exams when possible, safely and in line with all local government guidance

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ABRSM Grade 1 Piano Exam Pieces 2021 & 2022 Publication Delay

In an unprecedented case, we have just been informed by ABRSM UK of an important change to the Grade 1 editions of the new 2021 & 2022 Piano Exam Pieces. 

These are the exact text from ABRSM UK:

I am writing to let you know about an important change to the Grade 1 editions of the new 2021 & 2022 Piano Exam Pieces.  We are committed to reflecting a world of underrepresented talent and musical stories through our commissioning and publications. We have recently made a change to the Grade 1 Piano syllabus to make it more representative, and this means the Piano Exam Pieces Grade 1 (both with and without CD) will now publish on a later date to the rest of the syllabus. We will communicate this new publication date and a new delivery schedule as soon as possible. Due to this change to Grade 1, we will also be updating the Piano Syllabus 2021 & 2022. We will make this available as a downloadable PDF – there will be no printed edition of this syllabus.
Affected titles: 
• 9781786013187 Piano Exam Pieces 2021 & 2022, ABRSM Grade 1 
• 9781786013279 Piano Exam Pieces 2021 & 2022, ABRSM Grade 1, with CD 
• 9781786013842 Piano Syllabus 2021 & 2022

All orders already received for the Grade 1 books will be supplied when available, and there is no need to re-order them. Any backorders recorded from 1 July will be supplied with standard freight charges applied and shipped as soon as stock is available. 
Please refer to the new ISBN numbers below for the Grade 1 books when placing orders and updating your systems.
• 9781786013873 Piano Exam Pieces 2021 & 2022, ABRSM Grade 1 
• 9781786013880 Piano Exam Pieces 2021 & 2022, ABRSM Grade 1, with CD

The publication date for all new Piano Syllabus 2021 & 2022 publications except Grade 1 will remain 9 July 2020. This includes the Piano Exam Pieces Grades Initial and 2-8, and the new Piano Scales books. These books remain under embargo until 9 July 2020. We will communicate the new publication date and embargo date for the new Grade 1 books as soon as possible.

What Does this mean to you?

This changed of event has affected all students and teachers globally. At Ensemble Music, we have already taken the necessary steps to “swap out” the Grade 1 books order. All affected customers will be notified separately. Rest assure that we will make our best effort to deliver your books, pre-order or not, in the shortest possible time. Your understanding and patience are greatly appreciated.

Best regards,
Ensemble Music Team

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ABRSM New Piano Syllabus 2021 & 2022 update

The wait is finally over, the new ABRSM piano syllabus is now scheduled to release (worldwide) on July 9, 2020. We have received many questions about the new syllabus, so here’s a very quick summary to digest:

  1. Sight-reading syllabus
    • -No changes to the syllabus except the introduction of a new Initial Grade (see this as pre-Grade 1)
  2. Scales & Arpeggios
  3. Exam pieces
    • -Revised repertoire lists along with a revised list structure with lists defined by musical characteristics rather than existing lists grouped by period of composition
    • -More choice and variety of repertoire (30 pieces per grade)
    • -A duet option from Initial Grade to Grade 3. Students may refer to the New Piano Star Duets for choice pieces

That’s all you need to know in short. The new syllabus will take effect on January 1st, 2021, available for download here:

Apart from that, due to current year’s examination delays caused by the Covid-19 situation, there will be a one-year overlap period, with the 2019 & 2020 syllabus valid until December 31st, 2021. However, all three pieces and the scales requirements must be prepared from the same syllabus. Cherry picking (mixed selections) between 2019 & 2020 and 2021 & 2022 syllabus are not allowed.

Another step taken by ABRSM (emerging from the situation of Covid-19) is the announcement they made in May 2020 that online practical graded music exams with a focus on performance will be made available to students in the UK from August 2020. The exams will be for all instruments and grades and will use existing repertoire and resources. These exams, though only available in UK for now, will eventually be rolled out in stages to students in other countries in the near future.

These performance-focused graded music exams will be assessed remotely based on a recorded (video) submission. This is similar to the approach taken by Rockschool of London (RSL) just a few months back. All the pieces played must be recorded in a single (non-stop) take.

To learn more about Performance Grading, visit

With effect from 1 January 2021, the repertoire lists in the new Piano syllabus 2021 & 2022 are for use in both existing practical graded music exams and in the newly announced remotely-assessed, performance-focused grading.

Purchase the new 2021 & 2022 Exam pieces here.

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ABRSM Music Theory Practice Papers 2019 and Model Answers

ABRSM’s official Practice Papers are essential resources for candidates preparing for our Music Theory exams. They provide authentic practice materials and a reliable guide to what to expect in the exam.

The new papers are selected from the 2019 Music Theory exam papers. Each graded collection contains four papers from the 2019 exams; there is also a corresponding set of Model Answers for each grade.
ABRSM Music Theory Practice Papers 2019
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Guitar Lesson for Kids and Adults In Singapore

The Guitar has always been a great instrument for any music lovers. Its basics are easy to pick up and the instrument is convenient to carry around for any events. Even with the number of YouTube tutorials out there, there is still an ongoing demand to learn the basics through a structured guitar lesson plan to build a strong foundation.

At Ensemble Music, we provide a cosy environment for our students to anchor this foundation through a comprehensive guitar course that covers basic music theory, guitar chords, notes on each string, notes reading, ensemble playing, strumming, picking techniques, various genres and more.

We even provide opportunities for our students to perform at our annual recital to play their favourite songs and boost their stage confidence.

Start your guitar lesson learning journey in Singapore today.  Join us NOW

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Ukulele Lessons for Kids and Adults

Ukulele is possibly one of the easiest instruments to pick up these days. There is now a great Ukulele movement in Singapore where MOE schools are offering free lessons to mostly upper Primary level students. This sparks off the interests of many kids and they went on to pick up structured Ukulele lessons in Singapore such as those offered by our School.

Ensemble Music Ukulele Course info:
* Selecting your Ukulele
* Tuning your Ukulele
* Strumming with a Pick
* Strumming with fingers
* Strumming notation
* Music theory: Bar lines, measures, Time Signatures etc
* How to read Chord diagrams
* Music notations: I Can Read Notes!
* Scales, tremolo, tablature reading
* Fingerstyle, plucking techniques
* Play popular and pop songs
* Learn Rockschool Ukulele Syllabus & Exam Preparation

Join the great Ukulele movement today, sign up NOW

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How To Choose Kids Guitar

Are you looking at buying a kids or children guitar for your loved ones?

If so, these are the common questions asked:
1. What guitar size is suitable?
2. Is Acoustic or Classical model better?
3. What wood type is good?

Let’s tackle these questions one by one.

Guitar size chart
Following is a Guide we use when customers step into our shop with their kids. By and large, we find this Guitar size chart pretty accurate:

30 inch (1/4 size) – Age 5 to 7
34 inch (1/2 size) – Age 7 to 9
36 inch (3/4 size) – Age 9 to 13
38 inch (7/8 size) – Age 14 to 20
39–42 inches (Adult sizes) – Age 18 & above

The best way to select is to bring the child along so that he or she could have a feel of the physical size and pick the colour and design they like. If they don’t like it, they won’t play it.

2. Acoustic or Classical model
In simple layman explanation, Acoustic refers to guitars with 6 steel strings with a narrower neck and typically played with a pick or plectrum. It suits those who are more into pop, contemporary, Blues music and those who like to strum and sing. However, the steel strings are more harsh to the fingers and generally Beginners (kids or adults) find it painful to play for too long.

The Classical guitar, as the name suggest is popular with those seeking to play classical pieces, fingerstyle (solo) and flamenco style. No picks or plectrums are used in these styles. The Classical guitar has a much broader neck and comes with 3 steel (bass) strings and 3 nylon (treble) strings. The action is often lower and the nylon strings are more gentle to the “tender” fingers, similar to the Ukulele.

There is no hard-and-fast rule on what’s the best children guitar choice. However, most kids or beginners will find it easier to play on the Classical guitar because of the low action and the ease of playing on nylon strings. My personal take is to go with the Classical guitar for kids under 12 years of age. One important point to note is that it is often easier for a Classical guitar player to take up the Acoustic, but seldom the other way round.

If you are going for the Acoustic type, make sure the strings tension are low so the steel strings “hurt” less for the kids.

3. What wood type is good?
This is extremely subjective. To begin with, there are the solid wood versus the plywood and these days, high quality or high pressured laminates. Most kids guitars are priced under $150 so I wouldn’t be too concerned about the wood type. It is the overall playability that’s more important. Go with laminates for a start and test out the intonation of the guitar and listen to how it sounds.

Check out our kids acoustic and kids classical guitar selections:

Hope this helps!

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Baby Shower Gift / Toddler Birthday Gift Idea

Are you fretting over what to present for your loved one’s Baby Shower or Birthday event?

There’s always the convenience of offering the Red Packet (Ang Bao), or the common giving of NTUC (or the like) Vouchers. Some prefer to give necessities such as diapers, milk bottles, baby wears etc. However, these items are so personal in many ways that most Parents would prefer to shop for it themselves.

Perhaps you could consider something more unique and tangible such as our High Quality and affordable Mini Digital Piano. It comes with 25-keys (2 octaves) meaning that one could play many kids’ songs with it. It is relatively small and lightweight. Since no stool is required, it is safe to use as you don’t have to worry that the child will fall over.

This Mini Piano requires no maintenance, making it a memorable gift long after the Baby Shower or Birthday event is over.

So, check out this wonderful Baby Shower Gift or Birthday Gift here:

Baby Mini Upright Piano (25 Keys )

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Musical Instruments Dry Cabinet

Have you just invested in an expensive piece of Solid Wood string instrument such as a Guitar, Violin or Viola? Good for you!

However, I’m sure we are aware that the humidity level in Singapore is a silent (yet sure) killer to these instruments. No matter how good your hard case is, it is not going to protect your guitar or violin as time goes by. The cases can’t even keep dust out completely! The dehumidifying bags that you placed in your cases have short life spans and no one actually knows how effective they are!

Over time, your instrument is going to expand (bulge), a sign where moisture has set in. Treatment is tricky and may not fully restore its condition. Other materials used in the construction of your instruments include metals such as gold and silver. Metals are less susceptible to breakage, yet high humidity could introduce the adverse effect of corrosion. The best approach is a preventive measure, and the best solution is to keep the instrument in a humidity-controlled environment maintained at 45% – 55% Relative Humidity.

Protect your beloved guitar or violin now, the sooner the better. Our Musical Instruments Dry Cabinets are built with high quality that comes with a limited 5-year warranty. Order them online or contact us if you have any questions.

Guitar Dry Cabinet

Violin / Viola Dry Cabinet

Violin / Viola Dry Cabinet